GRASP Project to Assess Health Hazards from Fugitive Chemicals

View from Sunset Park

Photo by Pro-Zak (Timothy Vogel) / CC BY-NC 2.0

Project Motivation

Following Hurricane Sandy, response and recovery workers may have faced unique exposure and health risks from “fugitive chemicals” while working in waterfront industrial areas like Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Project Aims and Approach

Our Research Objectives

"Fugitive chemicals" dislodged from industrial sites by Hurricane Sandy were dispersed through floodwaters to commercial and residential areas where cleanup activities occurred. People who engaged in cleanup and recovery activities following the storm — including trained and untrained contractors, volunteers, and employees and community members who helped out after the storm — were potentially exposed to these chemicals.

The main objectives of our study are to:

  1. Determine the exposure and health risks posed to recovery workers in the industrial waterfront community of Sunset Park; and
  2. Develop a plan for translation and implementation of the products of our research to other industrial waterfront areas.

Use of Community-based Exposure and Risk Assessments

Our research methods are based on a four-step chemical risk assessment framework:

  1. Identify chemical hazards and their health effects.
  2. Assess how health effects might change depending on how much chemical exposure occurred.
  3. Assess how much recovery workers were exposed to.
  4. Estimate exposure and health risks from information collected in the first three steps.

Our approach incorporates a community-based participatory research framework into the risk assessment approach to ensure transparency, integrate local community knowledge and data, and directly support intervention planning. Our main tasks are to:

  1. Build a community-based chemical inventory to characterize hazards.
  2. Create profiles of recovery worker activities to understand exposure.
  3. Estimate exposure and health risks.
  4. Translate research into practice.